Turkey's Secular Islamic split - worsens - Bad News
Is Turkey going the way of Iran, a powerful nation that changed dramatically when it yielded the reins of governing power to advocates of officially implementing Islamic tradition?
The ruling pro-Islamic Justice Development Party is facing the threat of a ban by the Constitutional Court on grounds of being opposed to Turkey's secular state which has traditionally been defended internally by the powerful military.
The government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan, which it is widely believed has as its goal the formation of an Islamic state, has fought back, arresting secular opposition leaders, including former generals.
How Erdogan's Islamist ties helped bring him to power:
Erdogan, like his political ally President Abdullah Gul, is a devout Muslim who rose to power politically as former mayor of Istanbul in part through business ties with a man accused of once helping finance Osama Bin Laden.
Erdogan's closest adviser, Cuneyd Zapsu, has been a partner of Al Qaida financier Yassin Al Qadi. Erdogan's policy toward the United States has been influenced by his alliance with Zapsu.
In the 1990s, Zapsu became a very wealthy man through his relations with Al Qadi, a Saudi national. In 1995, the two men established a company in Turkey called BIM.
In 2000, Erdogan, convicted of incitement to religious violence, founded his Justice and Development Party and invited Zapsu to join.
Zapsu soon became a leading adviser and fundraiser for Erdogan and the party. Zapsu introduced Erdogan to Islamic businessmen in Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. These businessmen became interested in the ambitious mayor who wanted to change Turkey from a secular to an Islamic republic.
The United States has been trying to understand the unrest in Turkey, a NATO ally that has begun an ambitious program to modernize its military. For years, the State Department dismissed the Islamic threat, with officials saying that Ankara could serve as a model for what they termed Islamic democracy. These officials played down the growing anti-Americanism fostered by the Justice and Development Party as well as Ankara's growing ties with neighboring Syria.
But the evolution in Turkey's national character came to the surface during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. A stalwart UN ally of the U.S. during the Korean War, the newly Islamist government repeatedly refused to make its bases and airfields available to the U.S. as a northern corridor leading into Iraq.
Now the national tensions that have been building beneath the surface are coming to a boil.
A national police crackdown is targeting alleged plotters in a coup to topple the government.
The secret organization Ergenekon is said to behind the plot and Gen. Sener Eruygur, was arrested in connection with it as were 21 members of Ergenekon. Given the traditional power of the military in Turkish society, such an arrest was almost unprecedented.
The Turkish daily Milliyet characterized the crackdown as a national “tsunami”.
But on the day of the arrest of the general, Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya presented his closing arguments in the case against the ruling party, he said, posed a danger to the state because it wanted to establish a theocracy in Ankara similar to that in Iran.
The 162-page complaint has led to speculation the party will be banned which could lead to reorganization or less peaceful outcomes.
The tensions are building and there is plenty of popular support for both sides. A coup could be the outcome. So could civil war.
Turkish daily Milliyet